“The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round,
‘round and ‘round,
‘round and ‘round.
The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round
All through the town.”
It’s morning again. Amid the hurried frenzy that inevitably accompanies the familiar dash to the door I check the clock on the stove. Hair has been combed. Bows abound. Breakfast has been eaten. My little one is adorned in a navy blue uniform dress with matching high-top booties. The digital green glare tells me that it’s time to go.
It’s 7:45 am. We have approximately seven minutes to walk four houses down the street and get to the bus stop on time.
I reached atop the entryway cubicle for the keys to open the double locked doors. My daughter is a wanderer and every door has inside locks that need keys to open. I often think of the best place for those keys to reside, especially if they are needed in a moment’s notice, but since there are no monsters chasing us it didn’t matter that my morning adrenaline had not yet kicked in. Dear daughter (DD) is oblivious to my key rattling as she picked her pink backpack from its resting place and placed it on her back.
I finally get the door opened and we are off to the bus stop. She jumps over a puddle at the end of the driveway and turns back to smile at me, so proud of her accomplishment. I’m just surprised that I could put one foot in front of the other. This morning seemed blatantly reminiscent of yesterday and the day before that.
And the day before that.
She reaches out for my hand and I’m lifted from my reality’s fog. Somehow DD has a way of grounding me, especially on days when my mind is in constant swirl. She swings her arms as we walk and I’m much obliged to join in. “Wheeeee!” she laughs as she looks up at me with a megawatt front-toothless grin and for a minute I forgot that there was ever fog. We had ‘Whee’-ed ourselves right on down the street and had quickly arrived at our destination.
The easement near the subdivision entrance is a mulch covered oak shaded wonder and DD is in love with every speck of dirt it houses. The wait for the bus is an exercise in futility, for as much as I want to keep her clean before she leaves she is DE-termined to pick up as many sticks as possible. Somehow Mama Bear wins the battle, just barely, but there is no time for a victory dance because in the distance I hear the distinct rumble of a diesel engine. The amber glow of flashing headlights pierce the morning and her chariot eases to a halt in front of us. She walks with me to the edge of the street and pulls me down toward her. She gives a quick ‘psssst psssst’ in my ear and a kiss on my cheek and then she boards the bus.
The driver and the monitor are wonderful people and they greet her with open arms. She has gotten so independent, boarding and finding her seat like a big girl. They wave as the bus leaves and I wave back. I watch as the wheels roll and listen as the engine roars.
And the fog returns.
My face is hot and I feel like I’m going to pass out. I just put my daughter on a rolling yellow giant and said ‘good bye’. I faked a smile and watched my daughter with Down Syndrome fade into the distance. I just sent my non-verbal daughter to a school where others will have to be responsible for her and rely on them to tell me everything. I can’t ask her what she learned. I can’t ask her what she ate… or if she ate. I feel so vulnerable to these people. I wait every day until she comes back and hurriedly look into her backpack to find an empty planner. I can’t ask her how her day went. She can’t tell me. I can only gauge her mood when the bus returns.
I feel like I gave my daughter away and that I’ll never see her again. I stand there and I’m frozen. The bus is far in the distance and my feet won’t move. I really want to break down and cry but I don’t want to cry today. I want to be strong and be a big girl like my baby was when she got on the bus. I want to feel confident that she will be okay. I want other people to see what an amazing and capable little girl she is. I want the world to embrace and accept her without preconceived notions about Down Syndrome. I want so much for her, far more than I can provide in this state.
Right now I’m just trying to will my feet to move.
Suddenly they do and I start to walk. I walk and walk and before long I had gone a mile and I met the bus on route at the other side of the neighborhood. The driver blew the horn and waved. I waved back but this time I didn’t have to fake a smile. I walked two more miles back to my subdivision and I felt better.
I’ve been walking that three mile stretch for five months now and it has become a part of our morning routine. I still feel anxious but the morning walk clears my head. Each day I meet a few familiar souls and wave as I meet the bus before it turns onto the main road. I remind myself that the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round. She’s okay. And so am I.
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